Crime fiction is one of the most popular genres in Britain’s public libraries and authors like Ruth Rendell and Ian Rankin are household names. But beneath the top rank of bestsellers is a host of writers, some new and some who have built loyal followings over the years but who have never quite broken through. It is to give a boost to these authors that the Dagger in the Library Award exists. Awarded by the Crime Writers’ Association, and sponsored by the publishers Random House, the Dagger is awarded to a writer nominated by library users and chosen by a panel of librarians, all of whom work with the public. This year’s panel is chaired by Mark Benjamin, Team Librarian at Hexham Library, and includes librarians from England, Scotland and Wales and – for the first time – the librarian responsible for the RNIB’s library service.
Unlike most other literary prizes, the Dagger in the Library is awarded not for an individual book but for the author’s body of work. Previous winners have included Stuart McBride, Craig Russell and Alexander McCall Smith whilst Joolz Denby, Lesley Horton and C J Sansom have been Highly Recommended. Nominated authors must be alive, preferably working in Britain and cannot have won the award before. If you’d like to nominate your favourite crime writer, nomination forms can be downloaded from the CWA website www.thecwa.co.uk/daggers/library or picked up from your local library and all entries must be submitted through a library. Each branch library or reading group can nominate up to three authors so any arguments can be left to the judging panel! Short supporting statements are welcome as they’ll help the judges come to their conclusion.
2008 saw 54 authors nominated and there is an added incentive this year. As before, all groups whose nominated authors are shortlisted are entered into a draw for 2 tickets to the prestigious Dagger Awards ceremony in London but, for the first time, those groups who nominate the winning author will enter a draw for £300 to be spent on books for their group. The closing date for entries is 11th April 2009 so let the arguments begin – just try to keep the murders to the printed page!